Brooklyn Boro

Pilot project promotes `inclusive flood insurance’ in vulnerable areas

October 6, 2021 By Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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Low- and moderate-income homeowners in waterside areas like Sea Gate, Coney Island, Sheepshead Bay, Gerritsen Beach, Mill Basin, Red Hook and elsewhere who need flood insurance but find its cost prohibitive may soon be getting a break.

A Stage 2 Civic Innovation Challenge Grant from the National Science Foundation, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, has been received by the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, the NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate Resiliency, and the Wharton Risk Center at the University of Pennsylvania. The grant, according to the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, will “support a new pilot project to protect low- and moderate-income families against financial crisis resulting from increasing incidents of flooding, with an innovative ‘inclusive insurance’ model.”

Time was when the average New Yorker didn’t think much about floods. Then came the debate over global warming, Hurricane Katrina, and above all, Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Sandy damaged wide areas of the borough’s coastline and several well-known institutions, from Jane’s Carousel in DUMBO to the New York Aquarium in Coney Island.  The storm also knocked out power, heat and hot water for residents of NYCHA’s developments from Red Hook to Coney Island. Subway tunnels under the East River suffered severe damages.

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Some neighborhoods, like Gerritsten Beach, were still rebuilding five years later. In some waterside areas, homeowners were required to raise their houses higher off the ground to comply with new regulations.

A pump train cleaning out the A and C train’s Cranberry Street tunnel after Superstorm Sandy.
MTA photo

In addition, various government agencies began putting out maps of what parts of the city were vulnerable to storms. Inevitably, homeowners began looking for flood insurance.

“Homeownership means little if you can’t afford to be protected from what you don’t expect,” said Christie Peale, CEO of the Center for NYC Neighborhoods. “This pilot program makes New York City one of the first cities in the nation to tackle high insurance rates for low- and middle-income working families at the neighborhood level, protecting whole communities, especially as major storms happen with greater frequency and intensity.”

Beyond the insurance pilot, the project also involves research on the community benefits of insurance and the challenges with current post-disaster support programs; work to increase the understanding of increasing flood risk and flood insurance among all stakeholders; and creating a community of practice in New York City to harness risk transfer for social goals.

The Center for NYC Neighborhoods will lead two project activities:

  1. The Center will initially consult with 50-75 households and property owners to help right-size their flood coverage, fix errors in their plans and explain FEMA’s risk ratings, or how their insurance cost might be impacted by risk and mitigation options.
  2. The program partners will facilitate trainings on flood insurance for housing counselors to bring directly to their clients. They will design and disseminate outreach materials for FloodHelpNY, a free online resource for property owners created after Superstorm Sandy, to help engage NYC homeowners about how they can protect their homes and finances from flooding.

In addition to the core partner institutions, the project also involves research and development work with Global Parametrics, technical assistance from Guy Carpenter & Co., and support from the NYC Office of Management and Budget.

The Center for NYC Neighborhoods promotes affordable homeownership in New York so that middle- and working-class families can build strong, thriving communities. Established by public and private partners, the Center meets the diverse needs of homeowners throughout New York State by offering free, high-quality services.

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